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Speed of light broken with basic lab kit.
September 17, 2002 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Speed of light broken with basic lab kit. Physicists at Middle Tennessee State University report that they've broken the speed of light using only $500 in off-the-shelf equipment that can be set up in less than an hour. Don't expect warp drives any time soon, but this does open up a cool area of science to the "two guys in a garage" arena. Is there a Jobs & Wozniak out there who will kick start a transportation revolution?
posted by mkultra (22 comments total)

 
Hmm. Sounds like they haven't done anything that hasn't been done before, but only done it more cheaply. Still, it's cool. I do think it's significant that there is enough initiative to do something like this with "basic technology" in order to allow innovation by more students and profs in many more places. Good for them.
posted by ChrisTN at 8:22 AM on September 17, 2002


exactly as christn said, but with more enthusiasm!.
posted by the aloha at 8:26 AM on September 17, 2002


It's not new that certain types of patterns can travel faster than the speed of light. For example, imagine a pair of scissors with extremely long blades. Now, close them. As they close, the visual point at which the blades meet will travel far faster than the blades themselves. If your blades are long enough and you close them fast enough, that point may 'travel' faster than lightspeed.

I can't tell from this article, but it sounds like what's being transmitted is a pattern, not matter or energy.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:41 AM on September 17, 2002


The speed of light hasn't been broken, in that no energy or useful information is transmitted faster than c. Group velocity > c is nothing new, except this happened to be done really cheaply :)
posted by Freaky at 8:42 AM on September 17, 2002


Can't find the link, but wasn't there a story a year ago about a laser that broke lightspeed? I recall that the visual effect was akin to "appearing as if the laser hit its target before actually being fully fired from the laser" if that sounds logical, if not completely insane. ("This is, as they say, completely impossible.")
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:56 AM on September 17, 2002


(or is that phase velocity? Damnit, where are the people who know what they're talking about when you need them ;)
posted by Freaky at 9:00 AM on September 17, 2002


A good summary on superluminal phenomena.
Great work though... It makes all sorts of sense to devise cheaper experiments.
posted by talos at 9:02 AM on September 17, 2002


boost electrical signal speeds in computers and telecommunications grids by more than 50 per cent
I'm no electrical engineer but doesn't this mean that if I don't have something plugged in that twice as much electricity will run out on the floor?
posted by mss at 9:55 AM on September 17, 2002


If your blades are long enough and you close them fast enough, that point may 'travel' faster than lightspeed.

Duuuuuuude. That's, like, so trippy. ::inhale::
posted by ChrisTN at 10:11 AM on September 17, 2002


Dude, where's my flying car?
posted by ZachsMind at 10:17 AM on September 17, 2002


(iIn Osama's carport?)
posted by dash_slot- at 10:29 AM on September 17, 2002


Patience, young Skywalker.
posted by linux at 11:31 AM on September 17, 2002


Sounds like they haven't done anything that hasn't been done before, but only done it more cheaply.

But given that 'more cheaply' is often times the thing that pushes great technology forward, I say 'way to go!' Now if only we can find a way to use this new development for sex, there'll be no stopping us....
posted by spilon at 11:34 AM on September 17, 2002


For example, imagine a pair of scissors with extremely long blades. Now, close them. As they close, the visual point at which the blades meet will travel far faster than the blades themselves. If your blades are long enough and you close them fast enough, that point may 'travel' faster than lightspeed.

Common bad example, as you'd need an inifinitely stiff pair of scissors.

A good example is the laser lighthouse:

A lighthouse has a very powerfull laser, and rotates very quickly. Beyind a certain distance, the point of light projected by the laser will move faster than the speed of light itself. As the tip of the laser approaches the speed of light, that distance approaches zero.

However, this is not particularly usefull, as you can't actually use it to send information faster than the speed of light.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 11:39 AM on September 17, 2002


why not? Let's say that you can send two different patterns each of which propogates FTL. Couldn't you alternate between the two patterns and send a binary stream?
posted by plinth at 12:21 PM on September 17, 2002


I think I could rig the Dilithium crystals to produce a subspace frequency that could reduce the warp-drive coefficient just enough to do that, plinth. It's just crazy enough to work.
posted by Hildago at 1:21 PM on September 17, 2002


Ya know, the efforts to derail this thread are getting *really* annoying.

Plinth - It's because the lazer is not moving faster than c away from the lighthouse; it's still moving at c there. It is, however, moving faster than the speed of light in a radius around the lighthouse.
posted by SpecialK at 1:39 PM on September 17, 2002


SpecialK: No, the laser isn't moving faster than C. Its projection on an arbitrarily far away cylinder is. It's not the same thing. This is a merely cinematic effect.
No information, energy or matter is moving faster than C, either from the projector to the projection, or between any two points in the projection's path. Hence, it's not a FTL signaling device.
posted by signal at 2:40 PM on September 17, 2002


. . . at my alma mater, no less! MTSU has always had a great physics dept, so it doesn't surprise me to see great things coming out of it. Kinda makes me wish I had learned the fight song.
posted by mikrophon at 2:54 PM on September 17, 2002


Signal: That's what I said. :)
posted by SpecialK at 3:18 PM on September 17, 2002


Well, that's what I thought what i said meant. I'm not saying things clearly today. In case you didn't notice.
posted by SpecialK at 3:19 PM on September 17, 2002


Its projection on an arbitrarily far away cylinder is.

Right - you could think of it as the individual photons all still being under the speed limit - it's just that new photons appear next to them faster than they could have traveled there sideways.

This is a fun book that looks into some of the theories about attaining superluminal speeds... it doesn't leave you with all that much hope that it's possible though.
posted by mdn at 8:15 PM on September 17, 2002


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